End cash dispute and have counties running

Wednesday June 26 2019

EDITORIAL
By EDITORIAL
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The dispute on allocation of cash to the counties has dragged on for far too long and risks causing paralysis. The meeting set for today between the belligerents — the National Treasury, the National Assembly and the Senate — must, therefore, unlock the impasse. It does not serve anybody’s interest to stall county operations; worse, when the bone of contention is sheer rivalry and muscle-flexing.

At the heart of the contest is the sum of shareable revenues to be disbursed to the counties. The National Assembly had proposed that the counties be allocated Sh310 billion in the 2019/2020 financial year while the Senate allocated Sh327 billion. The Commission for Revenue Allocation suggested Sh335 billion. They had been allocated Sh314 billion in 2018/2019.

All these are based on computations from the latest audited government accounts, which is for the 2014/15 financial year. It is important to recognise that the figures are above the constitutional threshold of 15 per cent, with the lowest, the National Assembly’s, standing at 30 per cent. And all that is commendable. It is a realisation that the counties must be properly funded.

All the contesting parties have valid reasons for their proposals and the differences are not significant, which should be the starting point for seeking a compromise. We believe all the parties mean well. Everyone wants the counties to thrive. But the row, especially between the National Assembly and the Senate, is more of jurisdictional supremacy than principle.

Yet this obstinacy has far-reaching ramifications. Counties, through the Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, has warned that the standoff risks stalling operations at the grassroots. The Treasury cannot disburse the funds to the counties until the dispute is resolved and the Division of Revenue Bill passed.

Irrespective of their indiscretions, counties remain the surest avenue for grassroots development. Achievements realised through the counties since inception in 2013 are unmistakable. We acknowledge that the devolved units have evolved into major tracks for pilferage and looting of public money, which matter we have canvassed on several occasions and rooted for definitive and punitive measure, but that does not mean they should be denied the cash they deserve. It is incumbent on the House to come up with systems of tracking the transgressors and causing sanctions.

The deadlock over the cash allocation is disruptive and must be resolved. Thus, we call on the parties to engage soberly, examine all the options on the table and agree on a workable solution today.

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